In Summary
  • We are treading into dangerous and lawless territory when we allow the police to become the judge, jury and executioner.
  • Those who made illicit fortunes from corrupt dealings with government have no moral authority to ask for tough action on crime.

The viral video of a public police execution of two suspected gangsters in Nairobi’s Eastleigh suburb has generated intense debate: Was it justifiable justice or cold-blooded murder?

My own very unscientific analysis of the social media chatter — from climes where the Internet is severely restricted and I had no access to Facebook, Twitter or even Google and Gmail until a belated discovery of the VPN that gets one around the Great Firewall of China — indicates a sizeable majority in favour of the drastic police action.

These views come not just from “common” folk tired of the high level of crime, but also from some fairly erudite and presumably well-schooled lawyers.

A notable voice came from a prolific social media commentator, a lawyer with a chip on his shoulder, who displays particular dislike for the media, civil society and all individuals and organisations that do not toe the straight and narrow path of his ethnic-political persuasion.

The other came from another lawyer, who is better known for flaunting his expensive socialite lifestyle on social media and showing off his acquisitions, properties, and encounters with the high and mighty.

Both argued that the police have every right to kill criminals, pointing out that the law does provide for the use of lethal force.

They went further to argue that in a state of war, or when confronting terrorists, bandits, cattle rustlers and other dangerous armed criminals, the police are in direct line of fire, and have to kill or be killed.

Those are popular arguments that will find resonance with the many Kenyans forever at the mercy of violent criminals.

Indeed, many used the opportunity to recount their own terrifying experiences at the hands of carjackers, muggers and armed robbers.

Memories were brought back of the loss of innocent lives in Garissa, Westgate, Mandera, Mpeketoni, the American embassy in Nairobi and other terrorist attacks.

There were also references to the large number of police officers who are paying with their lives so that the rest of us can live in safety and comfort.

These are all valid and justifiable points of view. But unfortunately, they are grounded in emotion and frustration rather than logical and sober appraisal.

From a legal standpoint, those arguments are, at best, pedestrian, and based on deliberately misleading and dishonest grounds.

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